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Fare you go – granting travel concessions benefits both students and the State Government

Fare you go – granting travel concessions benefits both students and the State Government
by Yichen Zhu
It’s strange that just when Australia’s education system is crying out for more full-fee paying international students, the NSW government is continuously discriminating against them. While travel concession is generally provided to students, I am not getting it - because I am an international student. This means I’m paying twice more each week to get to and from uni.

In March 2006, SUPRA – the postgraduate representative association at the University of Sydney – launched a campaign against the State Government and won in the court decision. The NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal ruled that the NSW Government has been overly charged international students on public transport fares by 50%. However, as a reaction to the decision, the State Government changed the law, which makes it virtually impossible for me to get travel concessions now.

Now, SUPRA is holding a new campaign that continues to seek transport concessions for us. Obviously, we are not giving it up until we get it. And actually, it can benefit both us and the government.

Jenny Leong, the president of SUPRA, said, “The State Government should not neglect the economical contribution of international students to the State and refuse to grant them concessions based on this reason.”

International students’ contribution to the Australian economy cannot be underestimated. They bring an estimated $1.2 billion into NSW economy per year through their living expenses. Yet the Government claims there is no money to provide them travel concessions.

However, Jenny Leong explained that the total cost of providing half-fare concession for all international students in NSW is about $11 million annually, which is a relatively much lower amount compared to their contribution.

“It’s not really too much to ask for.”

Clearly, the conduct of the State Government in response to the ADT’s decision of changing the laws has had negative impacts on its reputation.

Lynn Chiang, an initiator of this campaign, said that “Now there is a decreasing trend of NSW’s economy. Attracting more students to study here can contribute more revenue.”

“Our previous campaign received a lot of responses from oversea students in regards to the Government’s reaction. They are deeply disappointed about its newly changed law.” said Chiang.

According to the immigration law, International students can only work limited hours every week, and we also pay tax to the Government just like locals. There are large amount of international students who come from developing countries and not wealthy. Travelling in Sydney is very expensive for us.

Many students from my country are facing financial hardship here. Especially those who are sponsored by scholarships-they are struggling because there are certain limitations on work commitments for full-time students. They are in an even harder financial position compared with local students.

Leong claimed that the number of international students here appears to be falling in recent years. She said, “I think it is the time for the State Government to take action in order to remain competitive and attractive in the Australian and the global education market”.

“After all, it benefits both international students and the Government considering their financial injection.”


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When measly dollars mean a lot...

As an international student my understanding is that we have to pay full university fees because we don’t pay taxes in Australia (neither did any members of our families) so we don’t have the right to subsidised education.

As far as transport concession fare; I understand it's offered to alleviate students' expenses, as an incentive to facilitate access to education - Everyone knows students have no money.

I would add that some of us (students) can’t afford to live in the city; hence, we have to travel long distances to find affording housing prices. The concession fare really helps all of us students. Australians or not. 

Some nationals (specially from poor countries) are capable of unthinkable sacrifices to come study, live and work in a first world country, in the hope to provide a better future to their families back home and themselves. Yes, the measly dollars would make a whole lot of difference to this people.

No, not all international students in Australia have rich parents and  some of us are still paying the air fare we have financed with our credit cards in 6 to 12 months (well... I am anyway).

When I studied in London, I had full access to all kinds of concession fares - trains, busses, boats, cinemas, theatres... you name it. Yet, the fees to education were not subsidised!

To charge full fare to us, international students is just greedy and petty. Makes us feel not unwelcome and left out. In Brazil (my home country) students - international or not - pay half price on everything, including transportation. I certainly expected the same courtesy here.

The rights and wrongs of student concessions

Yichen, sure, as an international student myself I would rather pay the student concession price. But I also understand that the NSW government needs to implement policies to benefit its citizens and permanent residents. Call me a traitor, but charging international students the regular fare helps keep fares down for everyone.

I know we pay substantially more for tuition and maybe it seems unfair to charge us more for transport. But many other countries also charge international students higher tuition, justified by the fact that neither the student nor their parents pay taxes to the host country. And some countries restrict international students from working at all. Furthermore, some transport systems do not offer student concessions to anyone.

Is there evidence that the policy encourages prospective students to attend university elsewhere? Students take several factors into account when considering a university, but I doubt that paying a few extra bucks for transport is at the forefront of this process. Nor should it be.

I consider the extra money I have to pay a trade-off for being otherwise graciously welcomed in a country that is not my own.

Not enough support for foreigners?

Yichen Zhu, so you're complaining that you have to pay a few more dollars to travel to and from university each day, yet most international students can afford to pay three times as much as local students do in tuition fees, as you are not eligible to receive HECS-HELP support to the government. I mean this really does not make sense to me. How someone can afford a plane ticket to Australia and afford to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a a degree and yet at the same time complain about a few extra measly dollars that need to be spent, as one does not have access to a travel concession.

You also mention that a lot of the international students here are on scholarship places. Are these scholarships sponsored by the country of origin or Australia? Because if they're sponsored by the Australian government, then that means that they are simply complaining that they are not receiving even more money from the government than they already are.

I know that Jenny Leong has been campaigning very hard for the benefits of international students. The main point that she seems to be working around is the 1.2 billion dollars that the international students are bringing to the Australian economy, but why does no one talk about the potential losses to the Austrlian economy from all the Australians that are potentially missing out on uni places, and if they did go to uni, that would stay in Australia and would contribute to the Australian economy for the next 50 years or so. I wonder if that would be more than 1.2 billion?

Another point that you make is that you cannot work more than a certain number of hours while you are studying. I know that this number of hours is 20. But is that really a restriction? I wonder if there are too many local students that are studying full time and working more than 20 hours at the same time?

Pay me the measly dollars then...

Michelle, I found your comment highly discouraging for a variety of reasons. 

1) "yet most international sudents can afford to pay three times as much as local students do in tuition fees" - how do you know this? Did you interview international students? Moreover, this assumption is illogical, since most international students hail from nations poorer than Australia. Thus, statistically-speaking, the average Australian should be more able to pay tuition denominated in AUD than, say, an international student from Cameroon.

2) Many international students take out student loans in their home country or receive scholarships in their home country. By definition, international students are not entitled to Aussie-only student scholarships.

3) I have class 1.5 days a week. I could easily work 40 hours or more, but I am not allowed by the Australian Government. So to answer your question, yes - many students can be full-time students and want to work more than 20 hours per week.

4) International students go through a more rigorous admission process than do local students (look at the official USyd statistics please). Thus, Australia is gaining students better-equipped to succeed. Whether they stay in Australia or not is a valid point, but don't rest your argument on the politics of pity because some less-qualified local student decided to not pursue higher education.

Lastly, if you feel that international students are up in arms over 'a few extra measly dollars' then please, by all means, offer to make up the difference for those of us in need. I could use that extra measly $20 per week.

Show me the statistics?

Steven, your response doesn't make sense. You demand interviews and evidence from me then you immediately go on to make the sweeping assumption "most international students hail from nations poorer than Australia. Thus, statistically-speaking, the average Australian should be more able to pay tuition denominated in AUD than, say, an international student from Cameroon"... Where are these statistics you speak of?

Ok so you want facts: 90% of international students in the medical degree at the university of Sydney are from Canada (a poor nation??) These Canadian students are paying $50,000 (a four year degree) totalling a $200,000 degree. I have close contact with these students personally through my boyfriend who is a medical student at Sydney University. Care to make a stab at who the Canadians claim are the lucky devils are who get to pay this for this? That's right, their folks.

You say you only are at uni 1.5 hours a week and complaining about not working more than 20 hours- so what is the reason you are here in Australia? Remember why you have come here in the first place. Are you here to study, or are you here to work?

In the end, if these students are so hard up on money, is it not true that these international students are coming to Australia fully aware of the circumstances they will face and the money that will need to be spent?

Not enough support for foreigners?

1) Actually, it's only the NSW and Victorian governments that don't give concessions to international students. Other states are treating all the students equally. I find it as a simple fact of discrimination by the NSW and Victorian governments. Surely, you won't be happy if your state government is labelled as racist. Most international students simply don't get to choose how much they have to pay the universities (doesn't always mean they can afford such amount without being in debt).

 2) The med students from Canada come to Australia simply because their government cannot accommodate them due to an epic failure in their health education system back in the 90s. That's why so many of them flock countries like Australia and the UK to obtain their medical degree. Not sure if you know this, but the Canadian government offer ~$300,000 loans for med students who wish to do their med degrees in other countries. I don't think all Canadian parents are rich.

 3) There are many different scholarships on offer by the Australian government. Those students who are sponsored by the Australian government actually receive travel concessions. Your statement about how they were complaining for not receiving even more money was wrong. 

4)  International students have created 47,000 jobs in NSW alone this year. Furthermore, it has provided $5.3 billion to the NSW economy. The $1.2 billion dollars was an old figure from 2006.

5) You should blame the Australian government for not providing enough money for tertiary education. Fees paid by international students have become the main source of income for most Australian universities and most universities in the Western world. At UTS for example, 60% of their income this year has come from the international student fees. Australians would have to close down their universities without the international students. 

6) Your comment about the reason why international students come here in the first place doesn't make sense. I thought Australian were about FAIR GO for everyone?

7)  The international students are aware of the money that will need to be spent, but they simply cannot be treated as cash cows.

Fiona: Welcome to Webdiary, Paul.

You youngsters have a lot to learn!

Cheap and nasty, of course. Like every where else in the world funding is denied genuine projects, like education , so as to be wasted on garbage and speculation.

I observe the presence of my old friend Richard. No doubt he will be thinking of a response to the huge spend up mooted on defence, while the system that is supposed to provide technologically competent, yet culturally and socially literate people, is neglected.

Richard: I've a couple of ideas brewing on those fronts, Paul.  All these new KBR project announcemts have me quietly simmering  Ask the Salvos how much food they're putting on tables..

Fantasy Island: full-fare is not fair

The New South Wales transit authorities need to go back to school and learn the definition of the word "student." NSW is risking the loss of $1.2 billion that international students bring to the local economy for an inflow of only $11 million from these students on full-fare tickets. Australia cannot afford to be a fantasy island unaware of the real hardships faced by international students. Full-fare is simply not fair.

I am a full-time student on a tight budget. My tuition, rent and discretionary purchases all benefit the New South Wales economy. Yet, as a student I do not qualify for a student discount. The student concession should at least be renamed because in its current form it is misleading. Perhaps the "only if you are from New South Wales student concession" is an idea - although this will require updated ticket machines to accommodate so much text. This upgrade would be a costly proposition - it may even cost more than the measly $11 million the greedy, provincial state authorities wrongfully suck out of international students each year. 

In conclusion, I agree entirely with Yichen Zhu's argument. For a state that welcomed the world only 9 years ago for the Olympics to still be raping international students is unconscionable. Just like the Olympics that came and went, so will international students if this blatant price discrimination is not addressed.  

Richard:  Hi Steve, and welcome!  Could you please change your registration so that your name is correctly formatted.?  Ta!

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